Christmas is a perfect time for giving back to the community.

The University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) President’s Club did just that in a large, adorable way and gave 250 children from Edmond schools a Christmas celebration to never forget.

“Every year, UCO presents the President’s Club Children’s Christmas Party for underprivileged children from Edmond public schools,” said Felix Yanez, the logistics director for the President’s Club. “The kids are bussed to the UCO campus and from the moment they enter the festivities, they’re guaranteed an unforgettable Christmas celebration.” 

Student and volunteer sponsor Ana Cruz said, “It was such a great experience to be able to give someone Christmas and give them presents that they otherwise might not have.”

Volunteer sponsors, cheerleaders and football players cheered for the children as they entered the building. The younger children looked around in amazement at the Christmas decorations and at the “big kids” that they’d be playing with for the duration of the party. 

The UCO ballrooms were wild with noise and energy, but program volunteers felt it was worth every second of chaos. 

From start to finish, there was plenty for the children to do. They played sports, made crafts and, of course, met Santa. If they needed a break from all the excitement, there was a quiet room available where they could color and watch “The Polar Express.” Each child was given a backpack with a t-shirt, water bottle, UCO swag and several presents. To top off the event, UCO’s own Buddy the Elf, inspired by the movie “Elf,” was there to liven the day even further.

Buddy, or Glenn Elmore, originally volunteered as a sponsor, but was soon told that he’d be playing the lovable elf. He studied up on his character and spent a lot of time quoting the original Buddy during the event. 

“I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Bridge,” he quoted, then quickly corrected himself. “Or Lincoln Tunnel. Oops.”

Mahaya Locust, volunteer face painter and football player, was happy to participate and hopefully influence the kids. “It’s all about giving back and creating a sense of community,” he said. “We get to reunite schools and bring the kids to a college. We get to plant the seed. I never saw a college campus until high school.”

Cruz was sad she had to say goodbye to the child she had been matched with, but was happy that she’d volunteered. “It’s such a fun and rewarding event to be a part of,” Cruz said.

Numerous volunteers expressed how positive their experience was and how cute the kids were. The best part of the experience for many of them was being able to give the children a Christmas that they might not have had. The children left happy with their presents, the crafts they’d made and smiles on their faces.

Kellyn Berzabalnorth edmond